Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Pekudei 76 - Being Self-Determined and submitting to God's Will

The last portion of the book of Exodus – Shemot   describes the construction and completion of the keilim- components, utensils of the tabernacle – Mishkan and priestly garments. After the completion of a utensil, component, or priestly garment, the Torah says that ' they were made exactly as Hashem- God commanded Moses'. This phrase is repeated separately for all the utensils- keilim etc. Instead of repeating this expression 18 times, the Torah could have simply said that ALL the components and priestly garments were made exactly like Hashem commanded Moses. After the work of the Mishkan was completed the Torah notes that the Children of Israel had done everything as Hashem commanded Moses and adds to this ' so did they do '. This expression is repeated again when the components of the Mishkan are brought to Moses.  Moses notes that they were made according to God's will and he then blesses the Mishkan and the people.

וַיַּעֲשׂוּ אֶת בִּגְדֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר לְאַהֲרֹן כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְדֹוָד אֶת משֶׁה:  (לב) וַתֵּכֶל כָּל עֲבֹדַת מִשְׁכַּן אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וַיַּעֲשׂוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְדֹוָד אֶת משֶׁה כֵּן עָשׂוּ: כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְדֹוָד אֶת משֶׁה כֵּן עָשׂוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵת כָּל הָעֲבֹדָה:(מג) וַיַּרְא משֶׁה אֶת כָּל הַמְּלָאכָה וְהִנֵּה עָשׂוּ אֹתָהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְדֹוָד כֵּן עָשׂוּ וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם משֶׁה:
So our question is – for what reason does the Torah repeat so often that the components and priestly garments were made exactly the way Hashem commanded Moses. We have a second question. Why are the children of Israel accredited with making the Mishkan when we know it was only Betzalel and some other artisans who were involved in the construction of the Miskan?

We have a similar case.  Hashem- God commands Moses to instruct Aaron with regard to kindling the menorah- candelabra. The Torah notes that Aaron did exactly what he was told to do. The commentary explains that Aaron did not change or deviate from God's instruction and this was deserving of praise. When people are highly motivated in spiritual matters, like here, where the building of the Mishkan would be atonement for the sin of the Golden calf and cause the shechinah – divine presence to rest on the people, there is a tendency to try one's best and look for ways to improve things and be creative, in ways that one glorifies the mitzvah with a ' hidur mitzvah '. What often happens is that the person adds a new dimension to the mitzvah,  adds to the mitzvah and thus deviates from the 'halacha' and God's will. The builders of the Mishkan are being praised for being compliant and doing exactly what they were told, negating any personal desire to ' improve things ' and make changes. The sin of the golden calf was man deciding how to worship God.

It would seem that the repetition of ' they did exactly what Hashem commanded Moses ' teaches us the importance of being compliant and submitting to God's will  and as parents and educators we should focus on making kids compliant and submissive to authority. In the beginning of the parashat Vayakhel, Moses gathers the people and as a community, tells them about the mitzvah – commandment to build the mishkan, a resting place for the divine presence. God – Hashem calls on people who are intrinsically motivated and whose hearts  and spirit moves them to come and donate the materials, talents and skills needed to build the mishkan. We see that Hashem –God   is not looking for compliant and submissive people.  The challenge was for people to come forward and contribute out of total love, dedication  and without any other ulterior motives donate their hearts and spirit. When there is a desire for more spirituality people often will make changes or additions in a physical or external way, instead of working on   themselves workingand  on their inner souls,- pnimi'yut. We can compare the building of the mishkan to a musician who has to give musical expression to a composition from Mozart or Beethoven. He certainly would not deviate from the musical notes, but try his best to give expression to the wishes of the composer. He is true to the music, authentic and yet we experience his personal style, skill, knowledge and emotional commitment. The building of the mishkan was for the purpose of providing a resting place for the divine presence – shechinah and an atonement for the sin of the golden calf. This meant that the wisdom, craftsmanship and skill needed to be accompanied by a spiritual dimension. Betzalel knew how to join and combine letters with which the heavens and earth were created. It required a great amount of spiritual input - holiness, purity of thought, intentions, learning, etc so that the keilim- utensils and priestly garments could be injected with spirituality. In this way , it was made certain that all the keilim –utensils and priestly garments were made exactly like God commanded Moshes, that human desire and intelligence not only submitted itself to the divine command and divine intelligence but  people would make  supreme efforts to align their thoughts and be faithful to the divine commandments. It was not about being passive and submissive, but being highly inspired, intrinsically motivated and feeling self-determined in fulfilling God's commandment thus enabling the divine presence to rest on the Miskan and the people.

Another important focus of the contributors to the Miskan, whether it was donating material for the Miskan or the few that were involved in the actual construction was a sense of mission on behalf of the whole community of Israel. It was a feeling that the connection to the community ensured that they had a part in what mitzvoth the members of the community did and they in turn by using their talents or making a financial contribution would ensure that others in the community have a part in the mitzvah of building the Miskan. Their inspiration, whether as leaders or talented artisans was the community. It is the community that connects between people, makes people feel responsible for each other, and turns people into a single entity. It is the community that justifies any position of leadership or making a contribution to others.  For this reason, the Torah summarizes the construction process as the children of Israel, not individual artisans that did exactly what God commanded Moses. It was a joint effort that would enable the divine presence to rest on the tabernacle-mishkan and the community. And it was for this reason that Moses called the community together and as a community he gave them the commandment to build the tabernacle-mishkan.

As parents and educators we must understand that being compliant and submitting to God's will is not because of a fear or respect for authority but its source is a love for God, feeling self-determined  and having a need to connect and submit to God-Hashem and His divine intelligence.  It won't happen until we let kids grapple with ideas, explore questions and experience what it means to be part of a God fearing caring and responsible community.

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